Under-Staffed DPD May Face IA Shortfall

Dallas Police
Dallas Police Headquarters | Image by Dorti/Shutterstock

Dallas Police Department’s internal affairs investigators may be falling short of at least eight Department of Justice recommendations, according to a recent report from The Dallas Morning News.

The DOJ recommendations are intended to guide local law enforcement agencies about how internal investigations into complaints against officers should be conducted.

“When you don’t take these sorts of complaints seriously enough, that’s when a culture of impunity begins to develop, and you get patterns of violating people’s rights,” argued Christy Lopez, former deputy chief for the civil rights division of the DOJ, per the DMN.

The DOJ recommends a complaint that “alleges or suggests that an officer’s use of force was willfully, intentionally, recklessly or knowingly excessive or unreasonable” be treated as a criminal complaint, which DPD reportedly does not always do.

While DPD does require criminal investigations for cases in which an officer kills or seriously injures another person, the DMN found that no such criminal investigations are mandatory for complaints alleging that an officer intentionally or recklessly used excessive force.

Furthermore, the DOJ suggests law enforcement agencies recruit those with “highly advanced investigation skills” to conduct internal investigations. Dallas police reportedly told DMN that prior investigative experience is not required but is considered an “asset.”

“Every patrol officer has investigative experience gained through their calls for service,” DPD officials said, per the DMN.

However, Lopez claimed experience with normal police work is not sufficient and internal investigators “need to be trained specifically in how to investigate police officers,” according to the DMN.

The DOJ also recommends police departments take note when “a pattern of conduct” is established, such as several complaints making the same allegation against the same officer.

However, the DMN reported that there was no evidence that detectives examine officers’ complaint histories for behavior patterns, even though DPD spent $900,000 of taxpayer money on a computer system meant to track complaints filed against police officers. Police officials said the system is not currently being used but declined to explain why, according to DMN.

Many of the City’s and department’s reporting systems are currently out of use due to City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s continued difficulty in resolving an alleged ransomware attack against the City two and a half months ago, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. The downed systems include all resources meant to make data on Dallas crime available to the public.

Furthermore, detectives conducting internal investigations should electronically record all the interviews they conduct as part of an investigation, according to DOJ recommendations. Dallas police told DMN that investigators record interviews “on a case-by-case basis.”

If the statements made by an officer do not match other pieces of evidence, the DOJ recommends documenting such discrepancies in detail. Dallas police declined to share with the DMN how the department handles these inconsistencies.

DPD also has no written protocol governing the presentation of cases for potential prosecution despite the DOJ’s recommendation that all law enforcement agencies have such a protocol “explicitly codified.”

The DOJ also recommends that police departments utilize an internal compliance unit that audits investigative practices. The DOJ claims these audits “let the public know that the agency takes its integrity seriously.”

DPD, however, has no such unit and declined to comment on whether officials have considered forming one. Officials reportedly told DMN there are no plans to audit investigative practices in the near future.

In response to the DMN report, DPD spokesperson Kristin Lowman sent a statement to The Dallas Express.

“[DPD’s] Internal Affairs Division and Public Integrity Unit follow General Orders and Standard Operating Procedures to ensure fair, thorough, and complete investigations,” the statement read.

Likely complicating the department’s ability to allocate resources to such investigations is its struggle against a severe shortage of staff.

According to one City document, the shortage is especially pronounced among uniformed officers. This outline suggests Dallas needs around 4,000 officers to effectively keep crime under control in the city. DPD is currently short of this figure by about 900 sworn personnel.

“Because of [the shortage], that customer service that we have long given to the city of Dallas … we just can’t do anymore. And I think we’re actually hurting our relationship with the community more than helping it by not changing to doing something different,” said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata, commenting on the shortage via the Dallas Observer.

Still, at a May meeting of the police oversight board attended by The Dallas Express, DPD Police Chief Eddie Garcia said, “Regardless of outside noise, if it’s correct or wrong, we’re going to hold ourselves accountable.”

He went on to say:

“We know we’re going to make mistakes. I think what’s important to know is that it’s not a matter of when you make a mistake but what actions do you take once a mistake is made. I think it’s equally important that not only when we’re wrong, we are self-accountable, but when we’re [right], we make sure we support our men and women and we’re loud.”

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